Mayor Don Iveson has laid out his recommendations for Northlands ahead of Wednesday’s public hearing where city council will discuss a list of proposals from Northlands.
In a blog post, Iveson makes four recommendations: repurpose Northlands Coliseum (formerly Rexall Place) into a multiplex arena, integrate the Expo Centre and Shaw Conference Centre, repurpose and develop options for the horse racetrack, and defer Northlands cost for a period of time.
Iveson wrote his recommendations aim to secure “a more prosperous future for Edmonton’s event, convention and tourism businesses by uniting the convention centres.”
He also admitted it’s unusual to release a motion before a public hearing, but wrote “I wanted to provide the public, Northlands, and other stakeholders with opportunity to provide input on this motion as part of the hearing.”
Northlands made its own proposal earlier this year which included Northlands Coliseum arena into a six-sheet ice arena for recreational hockey, transforming the racetrack and casino into an urban festival site, and turning Hall D inside the Edmonton Expo Centre into a 5,000-seat concert space and sports arena.
However, the city said repurposing the arena with six sheets of year-round ice is beyond the projected market needs in the area and the suggested outdoor festival place and concert hall would not be able to attract enough events to be profitable.
“I’ve made it quite clear that I don’t think there’s public appetite, I don’t have appetite, I don’t think council has appetite to invest upwards of $200- to 300-million in facility expansion at Northlands until we can get the basic operations in hand, until we can look at conference centre integration, until we explore all the partnerships that may be needed to make something like the arena re-purpose work,” Iveson said.
The city said market research across Canada showed buildings like Hall D have the capacity to attract about 20 to 24 concerts or events a year, but Northland’s Vision 2020 plan assumed the facility would host double that amount.